The Situationist

The Situation of Handguns on Urban Streets-Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 6, 2009

a warm gunDavid Kairys has recently posted his fascinating essay, “Why Are Handguns So Accessible on Urban Streets?” (forthcoming in Against the Wall: Poor, Young, Black, and Male (Elijah Anderson, ed., Penn Press, 2008) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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This short essay explains why it is easier for young black men in many poor, urban areas to obtain a handgun than an up-to-date school textbook or a regular job. A chapter of Against the Wall: Poor, Young, Black and Male, edited by Elijah Anderson with other chapters by Cornel West, William Julius Wilson, and Douglas Massey, the analysis focuses on handgun marketing and distribution and addresses the social and political context that yields easy availability of handguns. Under federal law and the laws of most states, any person so inclined can buy huge quantities of cheap, easily concealed handguns and sell them to others indiscriminately, often without violating any law and usually without having to worry much about getting arrested, prosecuted, or convicted. Nor are the identities of owners of handguns, or the persons to whom they transfer ownership, registered or maintained by government, unless state law so provides-and most do not. Convicted felons are not allowed to buy or possess handguns, but the marketing system up to that point is largely legal. The person who sells a handgun to a person with a felony conviction has no meaningful or enforceable responsibility. Though the handgun debate is commonly cast in terms of “illegal guns,” the central problem resides in what continues to be legal. Large cities facing declining job opportunities, losses in population and tax revenues, and rising levels of deprivation are being forced to accommodate virtually unregulated handgun markets. The cultural and political identification with guns and the unregulated handgun markets have continuing broad support almost exclusively in rural areas and have been imposed on urban and minority communities. The chapter examines proposed handgun regulations and the political and cultural opposition to them.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health,” and “Innovative Policy: Zoning for Health.”

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